Bringing back stem cell transplants to Ireland for children with certain conditions would reduce the financial, logistical and emotional burden that families face, the Health Information and Quality Authority has said.

Currently between ten and 13 children a year have to travel to the UK to be treated.

In a study published today, HIQA said that the repatriation of care is possible, taking account of the increased transplant bed capacity when the service moves to the new children's hospital at the St James's campus, where the hospital is due to open in 2025.

Stem cell transplants can treat children with certain rare inborn errors of metabolism, inborn errors of immunity and other inherited conditions which disproportionately affect ethnic minorities here.

The HIQA report looked at bringing back paediatric haematopoietic stem cell transplants (HSCT) to Ireland, following a request from the HSE to review the international evidence.

HIQA said that moving the service from the UK to Ireland for the patients currently treated abroad could lead to cost reductions for the HSE.

It could also potentially double the number of procedures that could be carried out here each year.

The assessment states that the repatriation of the service would rely on recruitment of extra staff, such as skilled nursing staff and support staff, across a range of disciplines.

HIQA's Deputy CEO and Director of Health Technology Assessment Dr Máirín Ryan said that when a child needs to undergo a stem cell transplant this experience is incredibly stressful for families.

She said the need to travel abroad increases the stress further, with children and their parents having to remain abroad for periods of between two and six months.

It means that families are separated from one another for long periods.

"Our assessment found that repatriation of stem cell transplants to Ireland would reduce the financial, logistical and emotional burden that these families face," she said.

The treatment is provided in the UK for Irish children with these rare serious inherited conditions:

· Inborn errors of immunity: most common condition is SCID (severe combined immunodeficiency)
· Inborn errors of metabolism: most common condition is Hurler syndrome
· Haemoglobinopathies: most common condition is Sickle Cell Disease (HSCT considered an option in severe cases)

Hurler syndrome and SCID accounted for the majority of transplants over the last ten years.

There have been several major developments in Ireland on stem cell transplantation recently.

Last year, CAR-T cell therapy was made available for children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) - the most common childhood cancer - so that they do not have to travel abroad for care.

Last week, Ireland's first clinical trial for cell therapy to treat multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, started at St James's Hospital.

Children's Health Ireland at Crumlin has an accredited HSCT service and children with other conditions such as leukaemia, receive their transplant at Crumlin.